Why this is important
Community-supported local food systems and agriculture (that is, food co-operatives, community and school gardens, farmers’ markets, edible landscapes, city farms) can create supportive environments for healthy eating and physical activity. Gardening is recognised as a way to improve physical and mental health, nutritional status of communities, and capacity building within communities.(1)
Community gardens can encourage learning and relaxation. They make use of urban open spaces to contribute to the sustainability and appearance of cities.
Community-supported local food systems and community-supported agriculture brings benefits to individuals, neighbourhoods and communities.
These benefits include:
- improving health
- growing some of their own food provides individuals and families with access to fresh food that supports nutritional health
- community gardening promotes physical activity and health
- growing food improves food security through greater access to affordable fruit and vegetables and other local produce
- growing food increases the diversity of foods available and better enables people to eat according to seasonality
- improving learning
- growing plants is mentally stimulating and adds to individuals’ knowledge and expertise
- community gardens are often used as learning venues by community educators, TAFEs, schools and universities
- gardens are used for community education in areas such as water sensitive gardens, solar system design, minimising waste and recycling through composting and mulching, and growing the right produce for local conditions
- enhancing social interaction
- community gardening is a social activity involving shared decision making, problem solving and negotiation which increase these skills among gardeners
- as social venues, community gardens can build a sense of community and belonging, with community workers often using gardens for these purposes
- community gardens are good venues for local fairs and markets
- improving the urban environment
- growing plants re-greens vacant lots and adds diversity of vegetation to public open space and other areas
- gardens diversify the use of open space and create the opportunity for passive and active recreation
- growing plants improves the use of potentially unusable areas of open space, which increases public safety through greater surveillance of and in the area
- gardens enhance sustainability through the reduction of food miles and the carbon footprint through less fuel consumption, etc
- improving organisational practice
- local and state government agencies cooperating with community gardeners can improve relations with citizens and mutual cooperation can improve organisational performance
- community-supported local food systems and agriculture can demonstrate local government policy, such as waste recycling, water conservation and community development
- providing economic benefits for the community, farmers and local producers
- supporting local farmers’ markets, ‘buy local’ campaigns and local procurement policies can help small, family farms remain viable and provides economic and food benefits to the local community.
- improving food security through farming practices that are local and reduce the carbon footprint.(1)
- Protection of good quality agricultural land through land use planning
- Build community and council skills and knowledge in community gardening, city farming, permaculture and local food production practices by identifying resources and funding support for community gardening groups, including council grants, networking and information websites, and potential volunteers
- Develop a practical ‘how-to’ model for community gardens detailing the set-up, follow-through and evaluation stages that will ensure the long-term success of community gardens
- Provide opportunities for the community to have greater access to fresh, locally grown food (such as Farm to Fridge events and produce markets) by building awareness of and promoting community gardens and farms, and events and activities that bring communities together to celebrate a ‘sustainable’ and healthy lifestyle
- Provide financial support for home, school and community gardens through rebates on seeds, plants and equipment
- Introduce edible landscapes into council-owned areas such as botanical gardens, sporting facilities and streetscapes
- Identify and acquire land (or designate existing council land) for community farming facilities and support this with appropriate infrastructure, staff and funding
- Reward and recognise these facilities and the community that establishes and maintains them.
Food Connect is a farmer direct to community food distribution enterprise in South East Queensland. The Food Connect project is based on the Community Supported Agriculture model. A number of families (subscribers) buy seasonal ‘shares’ in a farm and take a share of foods grown. This model also provides a stable market for farmers.
Food Connect has evolved the original model to now work collaboratively with a range of farmers (rather than one) to distribute a variety of produce including fruit, vegetables, milk, eggs, honey and coffee. The food is ethically and sustainably grown, and produced locally – within a five hour radius of Brisbane. The project is able to support small, local farmers, as well as those involved in local producer associations. Food Connect has active relationships with its farmers and offers opportunities for subscribers to meet the farmers — “putting the farmers’ face on food”.
- Australian Community Gardens Network 2002, Community Gardening – the benefits, [Online] Available at: www.communitygarden.org.au